150 Celebrating Christchurch City Libraries 1859-2009 RSS feed

A brief history of Christchurch City Libraries

Christchurch City Libraries has grown from a single room opened at the city’s Mechanics Institute in 1859 to today’s network of 20 libraries including a mobile library and also a digital library. The library’s early customers were focused on reading for self-improvement and education, unlike today’s library customers who also use its resources for leisure and recreation.

Canterbury Public Library, circa 1903-1907 (before the YMCA was built on the other corner in 1908).As the library grew, custodianship was handed to Canterbury College, forerunner of the University of Canterbury. Under the College’s care, the library moved towards becoming a modern public library system. Almost 60 years after it opened, librarian Ernest Bell played a pivotal role in ensuring the ongoing success of the library by reorganising and widening the scope of its collections, improving the building and publicising libraries and reading in the community.

In 1948, responsibility for the library was transferred to Christchurch City Council on behalf of the people of the city. The Council inherited a central city library supporting a small number of suburban volunteer libraries. 60 years on, today’s library network offers professionally staffed, modern buildings, offering the latest resources and technology, as well as a comprehensive range of online services accessible from home. Unlike library customers for generations before them, no longer do today’s library customers even have to visit a library building to visit the library – but most still do.

Read more about our history:

See our timeline


Library travels with my Father